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Wen Ho Lee Forum Debates U.S. Tactics

By W. S. Wang

In a forum entitled “Spy of the Century?”, members of the MIT and local community got a chance last night to discuss the high-profile case of Wen Ho Lee

Lee, the Los Alamos laboratory nuclear scientist held in prison for allegedly transferring secrets to China, was released yesterday after a plea bargain settlement that will convict him on a felony count for unlawfully retaining nuclear secrets.

Because Lee is Taiwanese-American, his case has raised concerns about racial profiling and scapegoating within the United States government.

Roger J. Hu G, the event’s coordinator, gave a presentation called “Why the Wen Ho Lee Case Matters to MIT.” Hu has worked extensively with the Wen Ho Lee defense fund.

The forum also featured sections of “60 Minutes” and WGBH broadcasts about Lee, as well as an impassioned discussion session.

US government comes under fire

Hu said that “the danger now is to think this case is over” because of the plea bargain and subsequent release of Lee. He called for continued examination of the implications of the case, a charge taken up by many of the forum’s attendees.

Many in the forum conveyed a sense of foreboding about what the Lee case means for the future of American justice.

Professor Emeritus of Physics Martin Deutsch, who noted that he has lived through some of the most harrowing persecutions of the twentieth century, warned that the persecution of one scientist under the seemingly innocuous cloak of national security points to “a deep threat to our form of government.”

Professor of Anthropology Hugh Gusterson blasted what he called the inexcusable KGB-like investigation tactics of the FBI as well as the mass hysteria created by the “unethical” New York Times.

Emily Sun, a senior at Yale who came to MIT for the forum, said that China has become the monolithic monster that Communism once was.

Clara Hun, a resident of Los Alamos and a close friend of Lee’s daughter, gave a description of the institutional racism against Asian-Americans. She and others noted that it will be difficult to placate the fear experienced by Asian-American scientists who are either unwilling to discuss their personal experiences with racial profiling or to apply for nuclear laboratory positions as a result of cases like Lee’s.

Forum participants blast apathy

Hu said that apathy was a major obstacle to awareness on this issue, even within the Asian-American community. When he asked the MIT Chinese Students Club (the largest student group on campus) for support last year, the response was a resounding “no politics” stance. Hu said that he was forced to turn to the Harvard Chinese Students’ Association instead.

The forum was sponsored by the MIT Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Wen Ho Lee Defense Committee. The small lecture hall 4-231, where the forum was held, was mostly full during the forum. Most of the audience was Asian-American.

A member of a Wen Ho Lee support group remarked that “the MIT administration or its engineering and science faculty would not touch this issue with a ten-foot pole ... because they are beholden with too much grant support.”

One student from Harvard suggested that Asian-Americans lacked not only a public voice, but public ears when it comes to such a national issue.

Another attendee called for unification of not just Asian-Americans, but of all people who must realize the terror of a government committed to scapegoating.

Another audience member captured the feeling of much of the forum’s attendees by calling on them “to raise some hell on this issue.”

As one attendee pointed out, “China is not the enemy. Wen Ho Lee is not the enemy. Indifference towards the loss of a just America is the enemy.”